There is a rich vein of ambition backing up The Gold Standard, which can yield captivating rewards, but also searching stretches.
Hints of where Marrow's sound came from can be heard in the opening "(Intro)mental" track of Traphouse Rock, the debut album by Chicago's now-defunct Kids These Days, a teenage rock/hip-hop hybrid that featured Vic Mensa. That was the group where Liam Kazar, Macie Stewart, and Lane Beckstrom of Marrow cut their teeth. This quartet consists of young, classically trained musicians who have spent time in hip-hop, who have already toured with artists like Tweedy and Chance the Rapper, and that is both a welcoming and a warning sign.
There is a rich vein of ambition backing up The Gold Standard, which can yield captivating rewards, but also searching stretches. The band's restless enthusiasm is palpable; The Gold Standard isn't aggressive in the same way as Kazar, Stewart and Beckstrom's former project, but the album is twitchy and prone to spontaneous outbursts. Each of its eleven tracks, even the spiky garage-bop of "Paulson", twist through at least one mood swing. On their debut, Marrow establishes themselves as worthy relative newcomers to Chicago's deep music lineage, flashing influences ranging from post-rock to Wilco.
Given their talent and background, a borderline ADD approach is surely a way to keep their own attention, but the issue with that mode comes to the fore most prominently on "Ocean of Glory", a folk rock stomper with (what should be) a completely separate rave-up stitched on to the end – though kudos are in order for managing to make gospel-style backing vocals sound understated. More engaging are the swooning Stewart-sung "Mother of Maladies", Kazar's "Leave it on the Side", and the invigorating opener, "She Chose You", three of the many reasons to feel bullish about Marrow's promise.